A level Physics
What is the A level about?
Physics is one of the most challenging subjects, but the most interesting one as well. Physics is the study of the world around us and understanding why it works in the way it does. You will study the mechanics and fundamental constituents of the universe, of matter and energy, which ranges from the fundamental particles inside atoms to the complexities of space. The subject appeals to those with an inquisitive mind, a natural aptitude for mathematics and a keen eye for detail. Practical activities are used to consolidate and extend classroom learning, and the knowledge and understanding of these experiments are examined at the end of the course.
We use the AQA exam board for Physics. It is a traditional course. We study a concept through theory, practicals and questions to explore it further. The topics that are covered over the two years are:
- Measurements and their errors
- Particles and Radiation
- Mechanics and Materials
- Further Mechanics and Thermal Physics
- Fields and their consequences
- Nuclear Physics
- Option topic (AstroPhysics, Medical, Engineering, Turning Points & Electronics)
A level Physics is examined through three exams, each 2 hours long, which are taken at the end of U6th. Practical skills are worked on throughout the year, through various practicals including 12 required practicals in the 2 year course. The practical skills are also examined as part of one of the 3 papers.
- Paper 1 (2 hours) - Questions on topics 1-6.1 (60 marks short and long answer and 25 multiple choice)
- Paper 2 (2 hours) - Questions on topics 6.2 - 8 Assumed knowledge from sections 1 to 6.1 (60 marks short and long answer and 25 multiple choice)
- Paper 3 (2 hours) - Questions on practical skill and data analysis along with option topic (short and long answer questions)
Whom does the subject suit?
A level Physics is an excellent subject for pupils who are interested in anything that has to do with understanding the world around them. It suits someone who is naturally inquisitive and is not afraid of a little bit of intense study. Because it is such a broad course, it caters for those who enjoy, on the one hand, finding out about how the world is made up from the tiniest particles (hadrons and leptons) to those, on the other hand, who delight in exploring the Universe.
What skills should I have?
Those who do best at Physics have a great command of the English language, have a good vocabulary and an ability to learn new key terms and definitions to allow them to cope with what, at times, seems to be a different language. Being able to pay attention to detail and the ability to communicate complicated ideas using precise terminology. There is a high demand for good mathematical skills and although this won’t be at a higher level than GCSE Mathematics, it can often seem tricker because it is mathematics that is applied to a different context.
What trips are involved?
We take the Lower Sixth pupils to the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham which introduces pupils to the vast array of careers that use Physics. A bi-annual field trip to CERN (Switzerland) for A level pupils is a great opportunity to see international scientific collaboration at its finest and how Physics in action is helping scientists around the world understand quantum physics better and investigate how the universe came about.
What else should I consider before choosing?
It might be helpful to consider what other subjects you could do alongside Physics which would complement the subject. The obvious ones are Biology, Chemistry, Animal Management, Sports Studies and Mathematics. Other students have also studied DT or Art or English as all of these subjects help to develop analytical and observational skills that are very useful in Physics.
What books should I read?
Helpful magazines and periodicals are Science Focus and The New Scientist. The KHS library also has some good journals available including the Physics Review Magazine, which is more geared towards A-level Physics but applies physics concepts in real life situations. Issues considered are 'How was the Great Pyramid built?', 'What is the quickest route to Mars?', 'Electric cars' and 'How is BB-8 constructed?'.
- 'A short history of nearly everything' by Bill Bryson
- 'Six easy pieces' by Richard Feynmann
- 'Paradox - The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics' by Jim Al-Khalili
AQA (Physics 7408)
Grade 7 for Physics as well as a grade 7 in GCSE Maths as there is a significant mathematics requirement in the syllabus.
- Research physics
- Software development
- Air traffic control